Emphatic Hands #9: Get Cozy

The contents of my latest newsletter, which you can still subscribe to here

For me, the last few days have been all about feeling cozy. This week in New York has seen both rain and a not insignificant amount of snow, so I’ve been all about wearing big wool sweaters and fuzzy socks and drinking lots of peppermint tea and hiding under blankets on the couch. I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve enjoyed (indoors) during the last few days that have been comforting or cozy.

Here are my recommendations.

Listen to Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery on Audible.

I know I started off last week’s edition with an audiobook as well, but listening to Anne of Green Gables really was the nicest thing I’ve done for myself this week. I’m sure a lot of women are able to say this, but Anne Shirley was truly one of my best childhood friends. Listening to this book – narrated by Rachel McAdams! – has been a delightful reminder of how lucky I was to have found a role model in Anne Shirley. She made everything, from getting into scrapes to standing up for oneself to the intimacy of friendship, seem less scary. And she made me believe that my imagination was a valuable, powerful thing. I wish that, as an adult, I had half the audacity that the tweenage Anne displays in this book. I recommend this to anyone who feels like being inspired by the most fearless and romantic character I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Make Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower from Cooking for Jeffrey.

I made this recipe with my friend Vincent on Sunday evening, not only because I was craving comfort food but also because I hadn’t yet used this cookbook that I received for Christmas and it suddenly seemed like the coziest idea in the world. I, like most of you (probably), love Ina Garten very intensely. And I think I love her husband Jeffrey just as much. (He pops in occasionally on her Food Network show and is always the most adorable.) So, I was very happy to finally read through this book – which includes plenty of stories about their life together, from their first date until now – and cook something from the collection of recipes that Ina makes especially for Jeffrey. I recommend making this recipe when you’re having a casual evening with friends, especially when it’s cold enough that you’d rather not venture out.

Listen to Julie Byrne’s new album, Not Even Happiness.

This is the first album of 2017 that I’ve really liked. Not Even Happiness is a fairly quiet acoustic album and I’ve found myself listening to it over and over again, likely because of its familiarity – Byrne’s style is similar to that of several other artists I like – and suitability for this time of year, when I’m looking for music that soothes my winter blues. All of the songs are very much grounded in the experience of travel and the transience of life so, yeah, of course this appeals to me. I recommend this album for when you want to feel like someone is wrapping you up in a blanket and telling you a nice story (but you’re not quite sure what it’s about) or simply if you want to feel transported.

Catch up on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

I always forget the name of this show because it’s the same show as No Reservations, except on CNN. So I guess I usually just think of it as “No Reservations, except on CNN”? Anyway, I’ve been randomly watching episodes of Parts Unknown while I do mindless work things or other such activities at home because, even though Bourdain can be a dickhead and has actually kind of basic taste in music and has insulted at least one person I know in print, I really love watching him eat things and drink beers and talk to people. Plus, I learn a lot from him. For example, this week I watched the Iran episode of Parts Unknown and it was…pretty eye-opening. I realized that most of what I know about Iranian history (these days at least, I’m sure I knew more in college) I learned from Persepolis and the only Bravo show I still care about, Shahs of Sunset. Seeing real people sitting down together to share a meal, even if it’s on TV, makes you realize that life just…goes on in many of the places that we see as oppressed or conflict-ridden.  In addition to bingeing on Parts Unknown, I also recommend reading the Anthony Bourdain profile in this week’s issue of The New Yorker and whatever this Clickhole thing is that serendipitously showed up in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

Consider getting a subscription to FilmStruck.

My roommates and I received a subscription to FilmStruck, the new film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection, for Christmas. I’ve had a pretty nice time this week checking out all of the available films and adding them to our Watchlist. (Finally, I’ll be able to watch many of the films featured in The Story of Film, the eight-part miniseries – on Netflix – that I’ve started three different times and finished once.) On Monday evening, I ate leftovers (the baked shells and cauliflower) while I watched A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film. It’s a pretty serious drama, but it’s been on my list for a long time and I felt inspired by the Iran episode of Parts Unknown to watch it. I am not surprised it’s at or near the top of many critics’ lists of this century’s best films. (FYI, Farhadi is nominated for another Academy Award this year for his film The Salesman.) So, in closing, I recommend FilmStruck because it’s a better reason than most to curl up on the couch.

Two Turkeys

I cooked two turkeys during the month of November. That is two more turkeys to add to the list of turkeys I’ve cooked in my lifetime, bringing my total to four. I wish I could have written about this in a more timely manner, but I’m still recovering from many, many days of celebration.

The first turkey – nicknamed Reginald P. Birdington – was for the annual friendsgiving (for the lack of a better term) that I host with my friends Jen and Liza the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This event is officially called “Cheese?giving” as it is derived from the name of the fake band that we – shockingly, soberly – started in college. We started this as a way to get all of our friends together when we moved to New York City after college and it has been a success for three years now. Each year we provide the turkey and a few other things but request that our guests bring appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages to add to the mix.

Reginald P. Birdington – also known to some as Reginald B. Turkington – was about twenty-five pounds, making him our largest Cheese?giving turkey to date. (We probably ended up having forty people so…a turkey this hefty was pretty necessary.) His preparation was certainly a group effort. Liza picked him up and started the brining process – with brine from the Greenpoint Trading Co. – twenty-four hours before we started cooking him.

Jen and I went to Liza’s the night before to discuss other preparations for the party, but we ended up drinking several bottles of wine and eating large amounts of sushi, which was great for my digestion. We had pretty much everything we needed anyway. I got up super early the next morning, went grocery shopping and headed back over to Liza’s, still burping up what was basically ceviche at that point. We successfully hefted the bird with brine bag out of the refrigerator and into the sink, took the bird out of the brine bag and (mercifully) spilled only a little bit of the brine on the floor. Then we shoved him into his roasting pan and into the oven and disinfected the entire kitchen.


I didn’t take too many pictures of the other things we made, because I was using my phone to play music for most of the day. (Spotify playlist here: Cheesegiving. I suggest listening on shuffle as I was too lazy to order the songs.) We spent the remaining hours before the party making cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts (that I made with this Martha Stewart recipe and never served because there was too much on the table) and a few other things. I had just as much fun preparing everything as I did at the actual party!

Brussels sprouts that eventually went uneaten.

Even though we were nervous about turnout and being able to serve and clean up so much food out of a small kitchen, everything worked out really well. It seemed like all of our guests were happy, well fed and drunk, which is exactly what we wanted. The night ended just as it should have, with someone throwing up all over the floor at 4 am. I give a hearty thank you to my partners in Cheese? for putting together such a successful evening and to all of our friends who attended for partying.

Turkey #2

The second turkey I cooked was much smaller. My immediate family had our very first Thanksgiving with just the eight of us at home last week. My mom and I planned the menu together. My mom made mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash and apple pie.  I was responsible for the following:

– Turkey (using this Tom Colicchio recipe)
– Cranberry sauce (from Simply Recipes, also made this for Cheese?giving even though I really do like the kind that comes from a can)
– Stuffing (from Ina Garten, Jen made this for Cheese?giving)
– Pumpkin swirl brownies (using the Smitten Kitchen recipe, without cayenne pepper because my mom refused to buy it)

Despite nursing a modest hangover due to night-before-Thanksgiving festivities, I managed to make everything pretty tasty. (Props to Advil and coffee.)

Dinner time!

Once dinner time rolled around, I think we all had a pretty nice time hanging out together. Only like twenty poop jokes were made during dinner and my family even made a toast to me for doing much of the cooking. Then we – well, not really me – cleaned up which led to a Beyoncé dance party in the kitchen with all six Flannery kids.

Singing along to ‘Countdown’.

Very good times were had by all.

Aidan let us make a guest appearance in his daily Instagram selfie.

Friday Roundup: No Time For Reads

I was too busy to read anything this week – well I read a few things – so this week’s roundup is pretty short.

Honestly, I mostly watched Solange’s ‘Losing You’ video in my downtime this week:

Here are a few things, though:

Ina Garten (New York Times): I will read literally anything about her. This is a little thing about her magnificent kitchen.

Grizzly Bear (New York Magazine): This definitely made me have some thoughts about the music industry/music in general. Also, the members of Grizzly Bear all sound like nice guys.

India’s Booming Newspaper Industry (New Yorker): It’s all about the ads.

And a fun one…

Ten Classic 30 Rock Jokes, Retold As Infographics (Vulture)